There is something perpetually wrong with most African leaders in the way they stay in power for so long that at times, one is tempted to think that they are either cursed or are suffering from a psychiatric anomaly which begs for some urgent scrutiny. Infact If there were a psychiatric hospital for political madness, most of our African leaders would be perennial patients there.
So much has been said about African leaders who hold so tight to power and prefer to die in it. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, it is often said. Most of them rule with iron fists and unbridled impudence, with little or no regard for democratic precepts, and without any respect for their ages.
This time, it is Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade that is making the headlines though negatively. His defiant attitude towards the plight of his people and his resolute nature to run for president in the West African country has stirred a lot of trouble. No doubt, elections take place Sunday 26 February 2012 and he is one of the candidates, but the way he manipulated the constitution to allow himself run for president again is what has stunned many. He no doubt is expected to win a landslide victory to give him a third term.
When he came to power over a decade ago, he was seen as a messiah. He preached all sort of good tidings and even claimed he would lead just for a limited number of terms as the constitution dictated, but suddenly after getting to power, the madness, which is only peculiar with African leaders, infected him. Recently in an interview with the BBC, Wade claimed that his people were being influenced by forces without. He also questioned why all fingers were pointing at him now when the man who preceded his predecessor, Leopold Sedar Senghor, the first president of the country, ruled for 20 years. But he failed to note that the difference between him and Senghor is that the latter eventually quit power voluntarily, but he (wade) is clinging to it.
Senghor is today remembered for many good things and is considered one of the most influential Africans of all time – the only African to have been admitted into the 40-man French Academy.
Apart from that, Senghor worked inexorably to maintain peace and ensure economic boom through out his reign. That’s why Senegal remains on record today as the only mainland West African nation not to have witnessed a coup at any one time in its history since independence.
How does wade think he would be remembered, when the cost of living is exorbitant, fuel prices are soaring and youth unemployment is skyrocketing? Being a lawyer by training, many would have least expected him to behave so lawlessly as to twist the constitutional provision that does not allow a third term mandate for him.
Wade, over 87, is Africa’s second oldest president after yet another tyrant, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, over 89. He (Wade) looks frail and worn out and one would expect him to retire. His head has gone blunt and so have his ideas. Senegal is in dire need of fresh political impetus and a workable development plan which should catapult the country to greater heights. But a certain individual who has amassed wealth for himself and family wants to continue to be what many Senegalese now see as a “headache of state”. Like William Shakespeare once said, an actor should quit the stage when the applause is loudest and not instead when he is chased away, or forced to do so.
About 8% of Senegal’s Gross Domestic Product comes from foreign donors and following recent happenings in the country, most of them would surely begin to be reluctant or skeptical about continuing with such help for a country that has not lived the best of economic experiences of late. Many instances have also proven that Abdoulaye Wade is a very greedy leader, and that is exactly what prompted him to run in yesterday’s polls, political analysts hold. However, not every can hate somebody. I heard some proponents of his say on the BBC that he is the best thing that has ever happened to Senegal.
But while some Senegalese cry foul that their president has overstayed in power and therefore should leave, the situation in other countries is even worse off. Cameroon’s own Paul Biya, 78, who is Africa’s 3rd oldest president, has been there for 30 years now and still counting.
Under him, youth unemployment is rife, social amenities are not available, standard of living is terribly high and hopelessness has filled the air. Corruption and poverty are the order of the day in a country that swims in abundant natural resources. Before I am labelled a pessimist, let me still say that every thing seems to be going wrong. Even football that used to console Cameroonians is now instead annoying them due to the corrupt tendencies of managers of the game in the country, which end up producing poor results.
Egyptians on their part this month last year started an uprising that led to the eventual ousting of dictator Hosni Sayyid Mubarak who had ruled without mercy for his suffering masses for 31 years since 1981.
He suddenly dropped from grace to grace and is facing trial for crimes he committed while in power. Could he ever have thought that he would one day be led into a court room on stretchers? That’s exactly what happened to him. Libya’s Muammar Ghadaffi who monopolised the country for 42 years finally met his waterloo after months in hiding. He killed and raped with impunity, but he too finally was shot, dragged and killed like a thief in the neighbourhoods of Douala being meted mob justice. Where is he today?
Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbazogo of Equatorial Guinea whose country recently co-hosted the Africa football cup of nations is also among the political mad men on the continent. He has been in power for 33 years since 1979 when he ruthlessly toppled his uncle in a coup d’état. Angola’s Jose Dos Santos has been there since 1979 and is showing no signs of retiring. Robert Mugabe has ruled since 1980 and is less than five years younger than Nelson Mandela and 10 years older than Paul biya. Under him, Zimbabwe has not seen anything better.
Yuwewri Museveni of Uganda has spent 26 years on top after he took power with the help of a rebel army; Blaise Compaore has 22, same with Idriss Debi Itno of Chad. Gambia’s Yaya Jami is not left out of the list. Recently, in a rare interview with the BBC, he said that he would rule for 2 billion years if God wills. For Laurent Gbagbo, he was forced out and is now kept under the International Criminal Court custody after he reportedly ordered killings and refused to accept purported election defeat after serving Code d’Ivoire for 11 years….
And the list is long.
Paradoxically, these sit-tight leaders have clung to power not because they have outstanding leadership qualities, but simply because they have used unorthodox means. They have changed constitutions unconstitutionally, have rigged elections, and have maintained a firm grip on the media which try to scrutinise them. Many doubt when such madness will be whipped out of their heads.
But by and large, the times are fast changing and a new agenda needs to be set. The status quo has to change so that better things can happen. Most of these countries with long serving leaders no doubt have enormous natural endowments but are arguably the ones with the worst rates of unemployment and economic growth on the continent. Many think that the time for that cataclysmic change in our political trends is now, and maybe it’s only then that jobs would be created, lives bettered, infrastructure constructed, and hopes regained.
source: Modern Ghana